PMQs verdict: Zombie Miliband wins again

Ed Miliband at PMQs.
Ed Miliband at PMQs.
Adam Bienkov By

Reports of Ed Miliband's political death have been routinely exaggerated.

With every month that passes, his opponents have proclaimed him dead and buried and yet every week he climbs up to the dispatch box, soil and turf still clinging to his trouser legs and has another go.

Zombie Miliband's extraordinary powers of regeneration were on clear display at today's prime minister's questions.

Tory MPs had hoped that Labour's disappointing performances in the local and European elections and the Newark by-election would have finally finished him off.


And yet Miliband stood up today and gave what was one of his best recent performances against the prime minister.

The Labour leader won through the novel technique of actually talking about what people care about.

The chaotic rows between Michael Gove and Theresa May have transfixed Westminster in the past week, but they have largely passed the rest of Britain by. The question of which unknown civil servant released which letter on which website at which time are of huge interest to MPs and journalists, but of almost no interest to anyone else.

In order to cut through that, Miliband focused on two major issues at Gove and May's departments and used them to paint a picture of widespread chaos across government.

He began by asking about the so-called 'Trojan Horse' scandal at Birmingham schools. His questioning was calm but concerned. Instead of asking about May and Gove, he asked about parents. Instead of asking about press releases, he asked about the pupils. This was not something Cameron was prepared for and it showed.

He then went on to ask about chaos at the Home Office over passport applications. This is a problem affecting large numbers of people and is the kind of issue that reaches well beyond the narrow audience that most of what happens in Westminster plays to.

Cameron's responses were at turns defensive and evasive. Pushed for the final time on the issue, the prime minister instead decided to talk about unemployment figures. His attack on Miliband being "allergic to good news" was well scripted and played well to his backbenchers, but would have played far worse to the thousands of people sitting at home wondering whether they now have to cancel their family holidays.

Notably absent from Miliband's attack today were the stock phrases and attack lines he has flogged to death over recent months. There was no "they just don't get it." No "one nation" and absolutely no mention of the Bullingdon or Eton. This was a refreshing change.

By focusing on issues the general public care about, rather than the slogans they don't, Miliband was able to win the day. And he did so while turning Cameron's scripted attack lines against him.

There's still some life in Zombie Miliband yet.

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